Van Booven and Geltz credited with multiplying 'Hermann Beach' clean-up effort of 16 other volunteers
December 30, 2012 - 10:44am — By Jeff Noedel
Story & Photos by Jeff Noedel
Sixteen volunteers loyal to Missouri River Relief (website here) and the Hermann chapter of America in Bloom joined forces with Hermann Mayor Pro Tem Ronald "Pat" Van Booven and city Electric Department lineman Jesse Geltz to clear 85 tires and wide array of trash from the four acres of exposed Missouri River bottom known as "Hermann Beach."
In addition to men and women with shovels, picks, and sledge hammers, Van Booven brought his heavy-duty lawn tractor with a front-loader, and Geltz brought his (appropriately named) Arctic Cat four-wheeler. As volunteers chipped, chopped, crow- barred and beat frozen tires out of the frozen mud beach, Geltz used his four-wheeler to drag tires, four to six at a time, to the foot of the steep 25-foot hill at the east end of Riverfront Park (pictured right). Then a series of long chains were attached to Van Booven's front-loader, and the tractor was backed-up to pull loads of six to eight tires up the hill at a time.
A few larger tires consumed disproportionate amounts of time and energy. The largest tire, a tractor tire, had to be dug out all the way around. There was no digging on the beach per se. At best, it could be called chipping. Another large truck tire was so stubborn that it took four workers plus the winch on the front of Geltz's four-wheeler to dislodge it from the river bed's icy grip.
RIGHT: "Arnold Stream Team 211 Photo. Eagle photo below also courtesy Arnold Stream Team 211
Volunteers from Hermann, from Owensville, Arnold, Washington, and Rocheport (west of Columbia) converged on the "honey hole" of trash. The fact that 16 volunteers made it to the clean-up with less than 36 hours notice on a holiday weekend is testimony to the commitment and enthusiasm these people have for the river. Not to mention the fact that the temperature never got above 35 degrees, and it felt colder due to a brisk wind in and near the river bottom.
The clean-up started at noon and wasn't completed until 5:00 p.m.
It was hard work. Once tires were dislodged from the frozen mud, the insides of the tires had to be cleared so they weren't too heavy to move, and so recyclers would accept them. In some cases, sloppy, heavy mud had to be shoveled out (pictured left), but in most cases, the mud inside was frozen solid. To loosen it, a sledge hammer was used, and then picks.
Often, the sections of frozen mud still bore the imprints of rubber patterns (pictured below). Even with the mud removed from the insides of the tires, a load of six to eight tires at a time weighed hundreds of pounds, and was sometimes a challenge for the machines.
Expert river-cleaner and Program Director of Missouri River Relief, Steve Schnarr (pictured above with the sledge hammer), told CNL the clean-up was "Fantastic! I can't believe how much we got done in five hours with 16 people." He said Geltz's use of the four-wheeler on the beach and Van Booven's use of the tractor up-top had a huge multiplier effect on the manpower. He said it sped-up the process by a factor of at least 3X. One experienced river-cleaner said without Geltz and Van Booven, it could have taken three to five days, instead of 5 hours.
Of the cold weather, Schnarr said it made some things harder (the cement-like frozen mud), but other things easier (like popping some of the tires out quicker and not getting one's feet stuck in sloppy mud, which are usually the conditions of a river clean-up. Overall, Schnarr said the cold weather yesterday proved to be a slight advantage.
In addition to enough trash to fill the bed of a pick-up truck, a few treasures were found, including more antique bottles, intriguing driftwood pieces, and a copper doll head or tiny ornamental bust or finial, which is quite interesting.
The community of Missouri River enthusiasts is a tight-knit group which already liked Hermann. But the heavy involvement of two important city government people -- both volunteering -- seemed to have a great impact on these river clean-up veterans. Word is likely to spread that Hermann was unusually supportive of this clean-up effort, and that Hermann respects and protects its stretch of the Missouri River as much or more than some other river towns.
As the last of the 85 tires was being dragged up the hill -- as the sun was beginning to set -- two American Bald Eagles circled over "Hermann Beach." It was the first time in the day that they appeared. Owensville's Dave Marner, a Missouri River lover and Managing Editor of the Gasconade County Republican, called the eagles' appearance "river karma," and implied it was a sign of nature's approval of a job well done. Marner said the hard work of river clean-up (he has participating in many) is "all about banking-up good river karma."
To see more photos on the "Hermann Beach Cleanup" Facebook page, by "Arnold Stream Team 211," including photos of the eagles at the end of the day, click here.
BELOW: 85 tires of every size, from a bicycle tire to a lawn tractor tire, to a huge tractor tire and every car and truck size between.
Importance to me: